Environmental Ethics

Volume 15, Issue 1, Spring 1993

Mark Cowell
Pages 19-32

Ecological Restoration and Environmental Ethics

Restoration ecology has recently emerged as a branch of scientific ecology that challenges many of the traditional tenets of environmentalism. Because the restoration of ecosystems, “applied ecology,” has the potential to advance theoretical understanding to such an extent that scientists can extensively manipulate the environment, it encourages increasingly active human participation within ecosystems and could inhibit the preservation of areas from human influences. Despite the environmentally dangerous possibilities that this form of science and technology present, restoration offers an attractive alternative for human interaction with the environment. I outline the primary claims that have been made for ecological restoration, examine inconsistencies with restorationists’ philosophical position, and propose a reassessment of the definition of restoration that may aid in the clarification and development of a system of environmental ethics that recognizes human relationships with the environment as potentially symbiotic and positive.

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